As of last Thursday, October 5th 2023 the six-month grace period for Ohio’s distracted driving law is officially over. Law enforcements are not issuing warnings anymore or informing drivers about the “phone down, it’s the law” legislation.
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Instead in the past week, police are handing out tickets and fines in across all Ohio counties. In fact, in the past seven days alone 256 drivers were given a ticket. Of those, 204 tickets were specifically related to the new updated (distracted driving) law according to NBC’s WLWT5 news. Ohio State Police issued the most tickets on Saturday.
What’s Ohio’s updated distracted driving law
Simply put, it’s illegal to use or hold a cellphone (or electronic device) in your hand, lap, (or any other body parts) while driving on OH roads. If an officer sees a violation, you can get pulled over, fined, and even get points on your driver’s license. So that’s no texting, no browsing the internet or social media, no streaming videos (but you can use GPS) or playing video game. No FaceTime or video calls either. You can’t even briefly dial a phone number or enter an address for directions.
Ohio has had 6,400 distracted driving crashes so far in 2023
What OH drivers are allowed to do
Drivers in Ohio can listen to audio streaming and navigational systems, but only if turned on before getting on the road. You can you use cellphone while stopped at a red light. You can use voice-to-text hands-free features or digital assistants like Siri. You can even talk with your phone up to the ear (but remember no dialing) and only if the call can be started/stopped with a single touch/swipe. Yes, the newly updated distracted driving law can be confusing.
Fines and points for distracted driving
For a first offense in two years, you can get 2 points assessed to your driver’s license and up to a $150 fine. You may be able to avoid these penalties if completing a distracted driving course at this point. For a second offense in two years, that’s 3 points and up to a $250 fine. A third time you get a citation in two years? Expect 4 points assessed to your driver’s license, up to a $500 fine, and possible 90-day suspension of driver license.
Drivers under 18 years old are still restricted from using their devices in any way, including hands-free features
Fines double in work zones
Don’t forget, if you misuse your cellphone while driving through a work zone, fines double. Due to inattention and speeding, the Buckeye State has had 27,485 traffic crashes in work zones from 2016 to 2021. About 41% of these Ohio work zone accidents took place in three counties: Hamilton County (Cincinnati), Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), and Franklin County (Columbus) close behind. Just last year, Ohio State Patrol reported 36 fatalities around work zones.
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